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2019 Grand National Festival tips - Tips for every race on day one at Aintree

A view of the runners during the Aintree Festival.

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day one of the Grand National Festival and provides readers with his tips for Aintree on Thursday 4th April.

The Grand National Festival starts in superb style on Thursday afternoon, with the day one card at Aintree headlined by four fantastic Grade Ones. Hurdlers will take centre stage in the Anniversary Hurdle and the prestigious Aintree Hurdle. Some of this season’s best novice chasers will kick off Thursday’s action in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, before many of the horses who locked horns in the Cheltenham Gold Cup face off again in the Aintree Bowl.

Our expert has taken a look through the star-studded line-up on day one at Aintree and provided readers with his tips for every race.

Aintree Festival Day One Tips

1:45pm Devenish Manifesto Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f



GLEN FORSA (2/1 Paddy Power) was well-backed heading into the Arkle, but a blunder at just the fourth fence saw Jonny Burke thrown from the saddle. Kalashnikov’s exit from that two miler was much more unfortunate, as Amy Murphy’s star clattered into the falling Ornua and he, too, looks likely to step up in trip at Aintree. 

Of the two, I feel Kalashnikov has more class and could receive some each-way support. Glen Forsa has, however, proven himself over this trip and will enjoy the good ground more than many in this opening Grade One.

Mick Channon’s novice started the season rated 113 running in a three-mile handicap. On his final outing before Cheltenham, Glen Forsa destroyed Kalashnikov in the Kingmaker at Sandown, receiving a hefty mark of 150 in the process. Stepping back up beyond two miles looks a shrewd move from the Channon team and Glen Forsa looks to have plenty going in his favour.

Glen Forsa was a confident selection, until Warren Greatrex confirmed LA BAGUE AU ROI in this race, rather than another clash with Topofthegame in the Mildmay. Greatrex;s mare has taken to chasing extremely well, she skipped Cheltenham to be fresh for Aintree and this looks to be her preferred trip. I'll leave Glen Forsa in as the selection, but a reverse forecast with La Bague Au Roi could be the most profitable plan of attack.


2:20pm Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m1f



After the heartbreaking demise of Sir Erec, Pentland Hills stormed up the hill to reel in Coeur Sublime and win the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. Once the favourite had departed, that seemed to be a very messy race - with many of the other fancied runners failing to land a blow - so I’d be keen to take on Pentland Hills this week.

Band Of Outlaws looked a class above his rivals in the Fred Winter and looks worthy of a Grade One tilt. Joseph O'Brien has enjoyed a fantastic season with his juveniles - Sir Erec's demise aside - so I wouldn't be surprised to see O'Brien lift the trophy. What has shocked me, however, is the confirmation that FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES (NAP) (5/1 William Hill) will square off against stablemate Band Of Outlaws and he looks exceptionally overpriced at 5/1.

Following a tremendous victory on Trials Day, O’Brien decided to throw Fakir D’Oudairies into the Surpeme mix, instead of a clash with ill-fated stablemate, Sir Erec in the Triumph. 

JJ Slevin’s mount looked to be floundering turning for home, losing positions at an alarming rate. Yet, once Fakir D’Oudairies found his feet, he picked up excellently in the final few furlongs and was travelling as well as anyone on the approach to the line.

That race would have been an important learning experience for O’Brien’s four-year-old and the way he recovered after being swallowed by the pack was impressive. Mark Walsh takes the ride and Fakir D'Oudairies is surely the one to beat, dropping back into his own age group.

2:50pm Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m1f



Connections have decided that Bristol De Mai has a much better chance of winning the Bowl than the Grand National under top-weight and it’s hard to argue with that, after watching Nigel Twiston-Davies’ top stayer finish third in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. The two-time Betfair Chase winner ran well to place second behind Might Bite in this race 12 months ago and could be in with a shout, I just find him too inconsistent to trust and good ground won’t bring his best qualities to the fore.

Clan Des Obeaux was beaten ten lengths in this race last year, but Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old is a 15-pound better horse this time around and should be much more comfortable on the flat track here than he looked in the Gold Cup. Clan Des Obeaux will be the one to beat, especially if the ground stays good, but ROAD TO RESPECT (11/2 Betway) will also relish the underfoot conditions and I’m going in on Noel Meade’s charge once again.

I’ve backed Road To Respect every time he’s run since winning the 2017 Brown Advisory Plate at Cheltenham and received a handsome reward for my loyalty. The Gigginstown-owned eight-year-old is a three-time Grade One winner over fences and the way he swept some decent rivals aside on his reappearance in the JNWine Champion Chase in November proved he was a stayer still on the up.

Jumping mistakes and slices of misfortune have littered his three outings since. Road To Respect slipped up twice and still managed to finish third in the Savills Chase over Christmas and was denied by just a nostril when clashing with Bellshill at the Dublin Racing Festival, despite making plenty of errors along the way. As the ground softened at Cheltenham, Meade decided the Ryanair was most suitable for his eight-year-old, but a couple of late jumping mishaps meant Road To Respect could only cross the line a three-length third behind the valiant Frodon.

There’s no doubt in my mind that three miles is Road To Respect’s best distance and Aintree should pose this classy chaser no problems. I truly believe Road To Respect is amongst the best staying chasers in the business and a clean, error-free round of jumping will allow Sean Flanagan’s mount to show his true colours.

3:25pm Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f



Benie Des Dieux spearheads Willie Mullins’ assault on the Aintree Hurdle, having fallen at the last when a sure winner in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Melon and Faugheen could join their stablemate at Aintree, but neither hold as much appeal as Mullins’ lightly-raced mare.

Gordon Elliott’s team in this Grade One could be headlined by Apple’s Jade, with Samcro also currently in the mix. Apple’s Jade will be better at Aintree than she is at Cheltenham, especially over this longer trip, but I’m a big fan of BUVEUR D’AIR (11/10 Betway) and fancy Nicky Henderson’s charge to bounce back from that fall at Cheltenham.

Buveur D’Air was part of the “big three” in this year’s Champion Hurdle, but Barry Geraghty’s mount exited proceedings earlier than anyone expected. Apple’s Jade and Laurina both flopped on the big stage, allowing Espoir D’Allen to saunter home for a shock victory. The same can’t be said for Buveur D’Air, who fell at just the fourth obstacle and who’s to say where the two-time Festival winner would have finished had he stayed on his feet.

I’m hoping that calamitous error will force Henderson’s top hurdler to pick his feet up a little more, as his hurdling technique – mesmerising when done properly – always tiptoes along the lines of potentially hazardous. Buveur D’Air stormed to victory when he last took part in the Aintree Hurdle and I think he’s the most solid option in this year’s renewal.


4:05pm Randox Health Foxhunters' Open Hunters' Chase (Class 2) 2m5f 



Ucello Conti has run in three Grand Nationals and that experience over the fearsome fences could prove pivotal, but I’m not sure this shorter distance will suit Gordon Elliott’s dour stayer. Road To Rome’s tank emptied on the uphill run to the line at Cheltenham. His front-running tactics could pay dividends over this shorter trip, but that short price isn’t particularly appealing.

Horses below the age of 10 have won this race just three times since the turn of the Millennium. So, while Burning Ambition is an entrant who sparks intrigue, experience is clearly the way to go and the finger of selection lands firmly on KRUZHLININ (8/1 William Hill).

Gordon Elliott’s 12-year-old has been beaten once in eight starts in the point-to-point sphere, finishing third behind Stand Up And Fight in a hot race at Down Royal on his first start for his new trainer. While in the care of Philip Hobbs, Kruzhlinin jumped the Grand National fences on three occasions, finishing tenth behind Pineau De Re in the 2014 Grand National and seventh in the Becher Chase the following season.

Kruzhlinin has won his last four outings between the flags by a combined distance of 40 lengths, barely breaking a sweat in the process. If Jamie Codd is confirmed in this teenager’s saddle once again, his chances are only going to increase.

4:40pm Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m



Clondaw Castle was last seen finishing fourth in the Arkle at Cheltenham and could be the best-handicapped runner in the field, should Diego Du Charmil and Castlegrace Paddy remain in the field. Tom George will fancy his chances of a second victory in this handicap, but the entrant who catches the eye for me even further down the weights is EAMON AN CNOIC (8/1 Paddy Power).

Tom Scudamore’s mount was running well for a long way in the Alder Hey at this meeting last year, before failing to see out the trip and pulling up before the line. After decent showings in the BetVictor Gold Cup and a strong handicap at Exeter, Pipe decided a wind op and a drop in trip would be beneficial for this dependable jumper.

A return to two miles saw Eamon An Cnoic score a strong victory over Capeland at Newbury and Scudamore’s mount was far from disgraced back up in distance at Cheltenham last month, placing fourth in a high-quality renewal of the Brown Advisory Plate. Horse’s dropping back from two-and-a-half-miles has done well in this race recently and Pipe’s chasers looks very well-treated with just 10-10 on his back.


5:15pm Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2) 2m1f

The Glancing Queen was my each-way selection in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and King’s mare ran a fine race, finishing strongly to pass the post fifth. Misty Whisky also brings Listed-winning form to Aintree, having upset Silver Forever at Sandown and she cannot be ignored, but the one to back here could be MINELLA MELODY (3/1 Paddy Power) for Henry De Bromhead.

An impressive, ten-length victor on her only start between the flags, Minella Melody was backed into odds-on favouritism to win her debut under rules at Gowran Park. Patrick Mullins’ mount pulled hard in the early stages of the race, but the five-year-old settled down as the race unfolded, eventually cruising to an imperious, 12 length victory.

The time of that race was pretty slow - thanks mainly to the sticky ground at Gowran Park - but, visually, Minella Melody couldn’t have been more impressive. The fact she stays further than this 17-furlong trip is a big plus and she looks to have the class to take the step up in grade firmly in her stride. If Patrick Mullins is booked to ride again, or maybe even Jamie Codd, I would be surprised if Minella Melody didn’t go to post as the favourite. She could be hard to beat.

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2019 Grand National Festival tips - Tips for every race on day one at Aintree

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day one of the Grand National Festival and provides readers with his tips for Aintree on Thursday 4th April.

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